Tag Archives: people

Feet on the Beach

Feet on the Beach

Brian Auer | 01/19/2008 | San Diego, CA | 300mm * f/6.7 * 1/250s * ISO100
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This one was taken on the Torrey Pines State Beach near my home in San Diego. The feet actually belong to my Mother-in-Law. I spotted her walking along the water near sunset and I couldn’t resist trying to get some “walking on the beach” photos. I shot about 7 or 8 in rapid-fire mode and this one turned out the best from all of them. The reflection turned out better than I had hoped, and the moment in mid-stride made for an interesting photo.

Feet on the Beach Post-Processing

All of the following post-processing steps were done with Adobe Camera Raw — no Photoshop was used on this photo.

  1. Untouched RAW Image
    This is what the image looked like straight out of the camera. Not a lot of color to begin with, so black & white was a natural choice for me.
  2. Black & White Conversion
    Before doing anything, I switched to grayscale. I pushed the red, orange, yellow, green, and aqua to negative compensation while the blues, purples and magentas were pushed in the positive direction.
  3. Basic Adjustments
    I left the white balance set at a temperature of 5100 and a tint of -1. I left the exposure near zero, while I boosted the recovery to 33, fill light to 41, bumped the blacks up to 34, increased the brightness to 76, pushed up the contrast to 19, and I ramped the clarity all the way up to 100.
  4. Tone Curve Adjustment
    Using the parametric tone curve, I set the highlights to +22, lights to +49, darks to -33, and shadows to -47. This gave me the strong contrast I was after, and I actually pushed a few (very few) of the shadows off the histogram. Overall, the image is heavy on the darker tones.
  5. Vignette and Sharpen
    In the lens correction menu, I set the vignette to an amount of -70 with a midpoint of 20 — and this gave me the strong frame around the subject. As a last step, I set the sharpening under the detail menu to an amount of 50 with a radius of 1.5 pixels.


Wide Open

Wide Open

Brian Auer | 02/23/2008 | San Diego, CA | 15mm * f/6.3 * 1/1000s * ISO100
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When the wind is just right, the skies above Black’s Beach team with para gliders and hang gliders. This particular shot was taken at a 10mm focal length (15mm full-frame equivalent) as I stood very near the edge of a 300 foot sand cliff above the Pacific Ocean. The gliders ride the updrafts as the wind comes off the ocean and shoots straight up along the face of the cliff. These thrill seekers can ride these winds for extended periods of time and never lose altitude. The Gliderport is located on the Torrey Pines State Reserve, nestled between the beach towns of La Jolla and Del Mar. La Jolla can be seen in the background of this photo as it extends out into the ocean to form a point. And those little dots on the sand below… those are people.

Wide Open Post-Processing

All of the following post-processing steps were done with Adobe Camera Raw — no Photoshop was used on this photo.

  1. Untouched RAW Image
    This is what the image looked like straight out of the camera. Not too shabby, but it needed some work on a few areas. I decided to keep the color on this one because of the sky in the upper portion of the image.
  2. Basic Adjustments
    I set the white balance to a temperature of 5500 and a tint of +8. Then I brought the exposure to -.5, set the recovery to 100, no fill light, blacks at 13, brightness at +14, contrast at +35, clarity at 35, vibrance at +17, and saturation at +7. Do note that a lot of these settings weren’t made in this order — there’s a lot of back-and-forth between these settings and the settings on the other two panels I used.
  3. Tone Curve Adjustment
    I set a “strong contrast” on the point curve, and added some extra contrast on the parametric curve with highlights set to -28, lights at +26, darks at -13, and shadows at -4.
  4. Vignette and Sharpen
    In the detail panel, I set the sharpening to an amount of 50 and a radius of 1.5. In the lens corrections panel, I added some positive vignette. So instead of darkening the corners, I lightened them to even out the image and brighten the foreground. At 10mm, my lens tends to produce a slight amount of vignette, so I punched up the value in ACR to +50 with a midpoint of 0. I lost some contrast in the clouds (which I over-contrasted just for this reason), but I gained a whole lot of brightness in the lower left corner.


The Place To Be

The Place To Be

Brian Auer | 02/09/2008 | La Jolla, CA | 19mm * f/4.5 * 1/400s * ISO100
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This shot was taken during the La Jolla photowalk in early February. At the time, I found the scene to be very interesting — the hut, the birds, the people, and the ocean in the background really seemed to work together in this candid shot. I kept things fairly well centered because of the strong symmetry already present in the hut. The Birds and the people served to break up that symmetry in isolated areas, so I didn’t feel I needed to break it up even more. Lucky for me, I also left some extra room at the top of the frame, which served as a nice backdrop for some heavy vignette.

The Place To Be Post-Processing

All of the following post-processing steps were done with Adobe Camera Raw — no Photoshop was used on this photo.

  1. Untouched RAW Image
    This is what the image looked like straight out of the camera. It could probably work as a color image too, but I wanted to go colorless.
  2. Black & White Conversion
    Before doing anything, I switched to grayscale. I pushed the red, orange, yellow, green, and aqua to negative compensation while the blues, purples and magentas were pushed in the positive direction.
  3. Basic Adjustments
    I left the white balance set at a temperature of 5800 and a tint of +3. I left the exposure, recovery, and clarity set to zero, while I boosted the fill light to 46, bumped the blacks up to 36, dropped the brightness to 16, and pushed up the contrast to 52.
  4. Tone Curve Adjustment
    Using the parametric tone curve, I set the highlights to +41, lights to +39, darks to -44, and shadows to -76. This gave me the strong contrast I was after, and I actually pushed a bunch of the highlights and shadows off the histogram.
  5. Vignette and Sharpen
    In the lens correction menu, I set the vignette to an amount of -76 with a midpoint of 19 — and this gave me the strong frame around the hut while filling in some of that sky. As a last step, I set the sharpening under the detail menu to an amount of 50 with a radius of 1.5 pixels.


February Challenge: Day 10 – Chinese Art

Chinese Art


And that concludes week 2 of the February Challenge for me. Still have no idea what color I’m doing for week 3, and I only have about an hour or two left before the clock strikes midnight.

To see the rest of my February Challenge photos, check the “Challenge” category here on the blog or visit my Flickr Set.

31 Lessons in Portrait Photography

The December Challenge

December 2007 was a busy month for me — mostly because I decided to participate in Trevor Carpenter’s December Challenge. The challenge was to take a portrait every day for the entire month. I’ve never committed to something like that before, so I had no idea what I was in for. Taking a portrait was on the top of my priority list every day, and I brought my camera everywhere with me.

You can see more details about each photo below and the person in the photo by clicking on it. You can also see all of the photos in my December Challenge Flickr set. This was a great experience, and I’d like to thank Trevor for leading the pack on this. I’d also like to thank him for giving me an extra push to take portraits of strangers — it turns out that people really aren’t so bad!

Trevor has also put together a wonderful recap of the entire event on his site. Don’t forget to check it out! We had over 35 photographers participate in this challenge, and Trevor has highlighted their efforts quite nicely. And don’t forget to check out Trevor’s new blog “PhotoChallenge.org” where he’ll be hosting more of these great projects!

Here’s a list of the key learnings from each portrait I took during the December Challenge.

Candice Auer


I must have taken over 100 photos of Candice within about 15 minutes. Some were setup, thought-out, and posed — while others were taken on rapid fire mode while she was laughing, talking, or making faces at me. Most of the rapid fire photos didn’t turn out very good, but this one turned out awesome. I happened to catch her on the return from a face she was making at me, but it turned out looking pretty natural and relaxed.

Brian Auer


They’re probably even better if they’re older than 4. I had my son help me out by providing me with a focus target each time I had to setup the 5 self portraits. It worked out OK, but it could have gone faster if he wasn’t so hyper. Most of the shots I took were slightly off-focus in one direction or the other. The other thing I learned: self portraits are hard.

Mark Stabb


Overall, this photo turned out pretty decent as an executive head-shot type of photo, but the background bothers me a little bit. I don’t know if it would look any better, but if I had lowered myself another 6-12 inches I probably would have had the blue/green portion filling the background. Then again, the window’s edge gives the photo more sense of place by being less uniform than a cookie-cutter studio backdrop.

Rex Auer


If I would have known I only had a 10 minute window to work with this model, I would have worked a lot faster. After 1 picture he’s like “OK, I’m gonna go play now”. I convinced him that we should take a few more so we could try different things, but that wore off quickly. In just a few minutes he gives me the “You just get 3 more Dad, and then I’m done.” I tell you what, I had to make those 3 shots count. I ended up using the very last shot of the session.

Richard Santini


This one was kind of a different situation, but I only took a single photo and hoped it would turn out alright. I’m actually surprised at how well it did turn out, but I would have liked to taken a few more from different angles and with different lighting. Moral of this photo: don’t ask a photographer on the job right after sunset to pose for a portrait and expect to get more than one shot from it.

Doug Crimaldi


After taking a few shots of Doug with the flash, I realized that he had his eyes closed in every shot. At that point he informed me that he tends to do that with flash photography. So I took a few more to test it out. Sure enough, he couldn’t keep his eyes open during the flash. So rather than throwing out all the shots and trying to get something without the flash, I decided to make light of the situation by posting all of the photos as a single image. Sometimes you just have to look at a bad situation from a different angle.

Paul Meissner


If I had to choose any type of stranger to photograph, I’d choose a photographer. I found that I’m more comfortable around them because they know what it’s like to be the one looking through the viewfinder. You don’t have to feel overbearing when you aim that SLR at them. Not only that, but the model then becomes a collaborator for things like lighting and composition, making your job even easier!



Before I took this photo, I had walked up and down the beach several times in search of a subject. It seemed like the harder I looked, the more difficult it became to see anybody as a feasible candidate for the portrait. So I stopped, sat down, and started watching people as they walked by. It didn’t take long before I saw Lauron and his lady-friend walking toward me. I approached them as they neared me, and Lauron was more than willing to pose for a portrait. Piece of cake.



I really didn’t feel like going out and trying to find another person for a portrait — in fact, I didn’t really want to pick up the camera. So rather than force myself out the door with camera in hand, I decided to go with another self-portrait. With a project like this, if all else fails you’ve always got at least one model that can pose for a portrait. Self portraits are always interesting to me because they’re typically captured in an unconventional manner.

Cachaulo VanLaanen


If all you have to work with is an empty hallway, do something interesting with it. Use the tools you have to create a reality that’s different than the one your own eyes can see. In this case, I used a super-wide angle lens to make a typical hallway look extra lengthy. Due to the distortion characteristics of the lens, I had to compose the hallway in a certain manner so that the distorted reality was only where I wanted it — specifically, I positioned the corners of the walls at the corners of the frame to avoid the pincushion distortion.

Cole Constantineau


This photo had a cool perspective, but the office lighting was terrible. I was forced to use a flash, but I should have been more creative with diffusing it. I bounced it off the ceiling and I used an Omni-Bounce, but the direct lighting was still a bit harsh and it left a few shadows. I should have grabbed a big piece of paper from one of the printers and held it over the flash to help diffuse the light.

Sarah Presley


The reflection in this shot is so strong because of the window tint and because of the direct sunlight. But that direct sunlight caused some extra shadows on Sarah’s face, and it made the appearance of skin grooves that weren’t really there — especially those around her mouth. These types of shadows make people look much older than they really are (I caught some grief at work for making her look “old”).

Nick Norris


When I starting photographing Nick, he had his sunglasses and hat on as shown in this photo. After a few shots we tried some without the sunglasses to mix things up a little bit. When I reviewed the photos, the shots without the sunglasses weren’t bad, but they weren’t as cool as the ones with the sunglasses. They kind of added some extra character and a little mystery to the subject by blocking out the most telling feature on a person’s face… the eyes.

The Auers


Taking a self-family portrait can be pretty hectic with a couple of little kids on board. It took us forever to get ourselves together and in the car — arms packed with the camera bag, tripod, cups, drinks, toys, books, etc. The one thing we (by that, I mean “I forgot”) was the blanket to sit on. So rather than give up on the picture, Candice suggested that we sit on a log that was nearby. It turned out that forgetting the blanket was the best mistake of the day. The log added much more to the scene than any blanket would have.

Three of Me


Shooting yourself is a difficult task. You have to worry about focus, framing, lighting, and of course there’s always the fact that we’re more critical of ourselves in photos that other people ever will be. It took me nearly 100 shots to get a set I liked well enough for this photo. The hardest part was making sure not to move the camera or the mirror during the shoot.

Bailey Auer


Kids make for some great shots, but they’re super hard to work with as a model. They do their own thing, and you typically just have to catch them at the right moment. I followed Bailey around for a couple of hours as we went to the park to burn off some energy. I got several good shots out of it, but they were all “lucky shots” rather than totally planned.

Aaron Costello


Working with adults is a little easier to get the pose and positioning you want. I had this scene in my head for days before the shoot. But when it came time to executing it, things didn’t come out exactly as I had envisioned. I think I came close, but that was only possible because Aaron was willing to be patient with different poses while I snapped away.

Rex Auer


For this one, I had planned on getting a nice tightly cropped head-shot of Rex. He’s sort of a spaz, so that didn’t happen. I pretty much gave up on the idea and I just started shooting as he messed around in front of the camera. I got this one and I liked it, so I asked him to do it again. Not a chance.

Robert Lawson


In this one, Robert knew that I was taking pictures of him — I asked him if I could. But rather than have him pose for a shot, I decided to get something in-context by shooting periodically as he worked in his office. I wanted to get the reflection from his window and get two slightly different perspectives of him.



I didn’t have a real plan with this one. I just walked into the gas station and asked if I could take a portrait. He said “sure, where do you want me?” Immediately, the cigarettes on the wall jumped out as an interesting pattern. I guess if I had to do it over again, I’d pull Carlos away from the wall a bit to get more blur on the background — it’s a little too busy.

Drew Verkade


This was a nice scene, but it would have been impossible to shoot without the convenience of a door into the hallway. I was using my 105mm macro, so I needed to be pretty far back. If I couldn’t get outside of the room like that, this shot would’ve been much more tightly cropped. A 50mm lens would have been ideal for capturing the same scene from within the room.



When I shot this, I wanted to get the rich and vibrant colors of the produce in the shot. The problem was that the colors were way too powerful and they actually detracted from the main subject of the image. Not only that, but the lighting in the store made several of the colors (especially the bananas) become oversaturated and lose detail. So to bring the colors back in check, I actually desaturated the entire photo a bit.



I pretty much shot this one in the dark, so I had to use ISO3200 to pick up enough light to make an image. I knew it would be grainy, but I think this photo really benefits from it. It seems to add some extra character and complexity to the subject. I think it also helps out the background by adding some texture to the mid-tones and breaking things up a bit. Overall, I’m really happy that I shot this at such a high ISO and converted to black and white.

Captain Barbossa


Here, I had an opportunity to get to know somebody a little better. But I was in such a hurry that I literally forgot to ask him about himself. I think the main reason I was in a hurry was that he was working while I took his photo. He was one of the guys running the line at Blockbuster, so I didn’t want to piss off everybody else by taking him away from the register for too long.

William Auer


This one was totally by chance and luck of timing. Not only was my Grandpa sitting in a compelling pose, but the light was coming right through the windows and beaming down on him. I jumped a the opportunity to capture this hard-lit scene and turn it into a black and white. Nice soft lighting is great most of the time, but sometimes a good hard light can really bring out the details that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

Daniel Devenport


Daniel was a real character. I actually took this shot before I even talked to him. He was in the middle of giving me a hard time for taking his picture. So rather than turning my back and running off, I approached him and showed him the shots. We ended up sitting there and talking for over half an hour. Meanwhile, my photowalking buddies had made their way down the rest of Hollywood Blvd. I think it was worth it, he was a cool guy with lots to say.

Bailey and Rex


In this one, I was intending to just take a picture of Bailey, but Rex would have none of that. He managed to get himself in there before I could get any solo shots. So I tried coaxing him to be a part of the picture in a good way, but all I got was the gymnast pose on the backside of the handrail. Looking back at it, I think he actually adds an interesting aspect to the photo by posing the way he did.

Elephant Boy


This took FOREVER to capture! The zoo was… a zoo to say the least. I had to shoot this from across a major pathway and there was always some group of people walking between us. Not only that, but I had to deal with the pedestrians who refuse to just walk in front of the camera as a courtesy. Seriously people, we know you’re there, just move on so we can get our shot — don’t sit there and wait for me to take the picture!



When we hear “portrait” we generally think people. But I tend to believe that portraits can be of subjects that aren’t human too. Dogs are really interesting and people love them, so a portrait of a dog is sure to please. Just be careful when shooting with a wide angle lens. I nearly had a wet-nose encounter with the front element of my lens — they’re very curious and they like to sniff new things.

The Giraffe


I chose the location for this portrait based on the texture and color of the subject. I thought that the yellowish sand would go well with the yellow material of the giraffe. Then I processed this photo to really bring out those textures and force them to compliment each other more than they would have with a “natural” processing.

Yesenia Barbosa


This one turned out pretty good, but I can’t help but kick myself for not shooting a couple more with different flash settings. I ended up blowing out some highlights because of the flash, and it was a real pain to get some of the detail back into the photo without making it look weird. Again, diffusing the flash a little more probably would have been a good idea too.


This was a great project to work on. Portraits have never been my strong suit, so this was a real eye-opener on just how difficult it is. So if you’re ever encouraged to participate in something like this — do it without hesitation, and the rewards will be more than you had ever expected.

December Challenge: Day 19 – Robert Lawson

Robert Lawson

Robert is one of the Engineering Managers at Quartus Engineering, where I work as a mechanical engineer. He’s not my manager though — he works on the analysis side of the business (the dark side), whereas I work on the design side. That’s OK, I still like him. He was also involved with the Formula SAE program in college (as was I), and he still has a bit of an infatuation with fast cars and auto racing. Here are some FSAE event photos from 2004 (which is the last one I actually participated in).

I took this photo pretty much from the vantage point of my desk just outside of Robert’s office. I noticed that his window acted as a decent mirror after it got dark outside, so I asked him if I could take his photo. He said “Sure, what do I do?” I says “Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t mind me.” So this is what Robert does for about 50% of is day, and the other 50% is spent talking on the phone with customers and whatnot.

To see the rest of my December Challenge photos, check the “Challenge” category here on the blog or visit my Flickr Set.

December Challenge: Day 17 – Aaron Costello

Aaron Costello

Aaron is a Senior Project Mechanical Engineer at Ortho Organizers, and yes those are teeth in his hands. Normally you can see his face, but it’s not uncommon to see him tinkering with stuff looking like this. We work with really small stuff at Ortho Organizers (orthodontic appliances), so Aaron occasionally sports his zoom goggles to keep the strain off his eyes.

When he doesn’t look like a mad scientist, he actually looks like a bouncer or a hitman or some other “tough-guy” role. He’s pretty big and he could probably intimidate most people without even trying, but he’s actually super nice. He also rides street bikes, so he is kind of a biker (but not the Harley type).

Aaron actually turned me on to the idea of going up to Palomar Mountain to shoot the riders as they take on South Grade Road — a place Aaron used to ride until he took a spill. It’s a pretty famous road for sport bikes and cars, so I might head up there one weekend and shoot some action.

To see the rest of my December Challenge photos, check the “Challenge” category here on the blog or visit my Flickr Set.